Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stand with our Paiute relatives

Recently, I was contacted by a Heiltsuk member living in Oregon for a response to the crisis on Paiute lands. It doesn’t take much digging to familiarize yourself with the conflict: An armed white militia is occupying a federal wildlife sanctuary to protest the US federal government’s “tyranny” and issue a call to arms to “patriots” everywhere.

There are many layers to unpack, but one is not yet getting the attention it deserves. Let’s start with this question: Who is the victim of land theft here?

The area being occupied by this white militia is sacred to the Paiute people. Paiute leadership has made clear statements that the militia is desecrating their ancestral lands. This is where Paiute people gather medicines, hold ceremony, and live their identity as people who are inseparable from the lands where their people have lived for thousands of years.

Tell me how this armed standoff, at its heart, an not issue of colonialism. Too many people are responding to the Bundy militia by tagging them with joke names or just ignoring the issue because they think it’s unimportant. If you think this is humorous or irrelevant, I can only assume you’ve never suffered the grief of displacement and land theft.

One criticism I keep seeing is that Bundy and his followers benefit from the very federal government they’re protesting in the form of federal loan guarantees. People can’t get enough of the irony. Frankly, I don’t care about that. Let’s talk about how they’re also benefitting from colonialism, white supremacy, and the deep pain of Indigenous peoples whose lands were stolen from them from the US federal government.

To all my Indigenous brothers and sisters, and everyone who purports to stand with us:

The absolute least you could do right now is lift up the voices of Paiute people and recognize that ignoring or undermining the seriousness of this issue is totally antithetical behaviour in anyone who claims to care about Indigenous sovereignty or to practice allyship to Indigenous people and causes.

Bundy, the militia’s leader, is preaching to the Paiute about oppression and co-opting their concerns to spin media for his standoff. How can people stand by while a white militia not only fails to acknowledge how they benefit from a society that oppresses Indigenous people – but also desecrates Indigenous land and appropriates the messages of Paiute leadership to bolster their own support?

I can tell you right now, if someone did this in Heiltsuk homelands, I’d be the first one lining up to deliver them a big, fat reality check.

This issue is simple. In the words of 11 year old Ashlin Begay, quoted in The Guardian yesterday, “If people are giving away land here, they should give it to us,” she said. “It’s ours. It’s always been ours.

Stop letting Bundy and everyone like him get away with their oppressive tactics. Lift up the voices of the Paiute people who are tied to this land in every aspect of their being.

This Heiltsuk is standing with our Paiute relatives. I hope you are too.

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Here are just a few things you should be elevating in your newsfeed right now instead of cracking jokes or just scrolling by:

Oregon “Militia” Says Feds Stole Their Land – Turns Out It Was Stolen from Paiute Tribe

How the Oregon militia standoff became a battle with a Native American tribe

Oregon’s Paiute Tribe Just Told Bundy Militia to Stop “Desecrating” Sacred Land and Go Home (VIDEO)

Oregon Native Americans Say Armed Militia Is “Desecrating” Land

Oregon standoff: Militia group has ‘no right to this land,’ native tribe says

 

Photo tour of the new Koeye Sanctuary

Hello friends,
At this time of year, we at Qqs are wrapping up our busy season and reflecting on all the work we’ve undertaken with our partners and our community. This year, one of our highlights was hosting a blessing ceremony for the new facility in Koeye, and having an opportunity to show our friends and supporters what we’re working toward.

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For those of you who weren’t able to join us in person last August, we’ve prepared an informal photo presentation that you can find by following this link. It includes a walk-through of the property with stories and notes about our 2014 season, and what we plan to accomplish in 2015.

On behalf of everyone at Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society, please accept my profound gratitude for sticking by us during this time of growth and transitions. We’re heading toward something beautiful!

Jess

Vows

Two weeks ago, I married my love.

I got married in my grandmother’s wedding dress, 71 years after she exchanged vows with my grandfather. I wore her wedding pearls, and a delicate gold bracelet that belonged to my great-grandmother. The head table was covered with a lovely white tablecloth that both women used on their wedding days. I’m blessed to have love in my life that goes back generations before I was even born.

In lieu of wedding gifts, we invited our loved ones to make a donation to RAVEN Trust to support the Nations who are fighting Enbridge Northern Gateway in the courts. Through the generosity of family, friends, and even strangers, we raised $5,705. When RAVEN announced a matching donor for all monetary gifts, the total impact of our fundraiser rose to $11,410. We are so grateful for the support shown to a cause close to our hearts.

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We chose to write our own vows, which we recited in unison before exchanging a pair of wedding rings engraved with a beautiful albatross design.

Here they are –

I pledge today
in the presence of our loved ones
to be honest, patient, and kind.
I pledge to stand by your actions
because I know you are a person of integrity.
I pledge to honour your causes
because I know you are a person of principle.
I pledge to support your beliefs
because I know you are a person of conviction.
In the course of our lives
I will trust and respect you,
I will uplift you,
and I will let your love make me brave.
I promise these things
in tenderness and joy,
in wellness and grief,
in beauty and in resistance
for as long as we work side by side.
I make this pledge
with consent and a good heart
because I know you are a person of your word.

With love.

Opening the doors

In 2007, a handful of people who let me walk a half-step ahead of them came up with a plan:

Open a library in Bella Bella with books of every genre, there for all ages in the community.

Most people in most places take libraries for granted. Most small town have one, or there’s one within driving distance. But for a community of 1,500 people living on a remote island, we story-lovers thought it was past time to make it a reality.

Over the course of 6 years, we transformed a very small space into an overflowing library with nearly 4,000 incredible books. Turned out the library was a story in and of itself. We had a whole shelf of books donated and inscribed to the library by all the shining literary stars of my once-upon-a-time undergrad in English. And every time a parent or grandparents came in to read to a child, every time a community member came in on a crashing wave of excitement to tell me about a new title they wanted, it made my heart feel so strong.

In July 2013, a catastrophic fire destroyed the building that housed the library. In that fire, we also lost important services like our post office and grocery store, along with the office of my non-profit (which serves as the umbrella organization for the library).

Eight months later, we’re opening our doors again. Thanks to the donation of a beautiful facility, we have a new space that’s been transformed by a local carpenter into cedar palace. The kindest strangers in the world sent thousands of books. We’re bouncing right back to where we left off with around 4,000 books in a beautiful new collection.

Today is the day our library is reborn. Today is the day we celebrate with our community and our friends.

Today, I woke up and burst into tears.

Granny always told me not to hold grief in my heart. But so much love and hope went into that first library, and I think a part of my heart never recovered from the day I waded through knee-high black pulp and ashes where our books used to be. I can’t express how deep that pain was, but so many of the people who responded to our call for help knew intuitively. I will treasure for the rest of my life the letters that came with many of the donations, the emails people sent.

Today, I’m letting go of the pain. Maybe you think it’s silly to feel this way. It’s just books, after all. But books are stories, and stories are all I am.

I don’t have any idea – no idea at all – how to express my gratitude to the many, many people who had a hand in raising this space up again and filling it with books and hope. They’ll be thanked more eloquently in other media when I’m working and writing more professionally.

For now, I just want to thank everyone from a deeply personal place for helping to make today a day of healing for me and my bruised little story-heart. The pain is gone, and it’s been nudged out by hope. I can’t even begin to imagine what I’ll do with that new freedom, and I’m grateful for it.

 

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